23 November 2010

My First Experience Fishing in Japan

Two weeks ago I was invited to go deep sea fishing with one of my students and some of his friends. I happily accepted as I haven't been fishing since the summer of 2009 and I've missed it greatly.

On the morning of 7 November we arrived at the fishing wharf at the crack of dawn - 5:45. My friend had reserved us a spot on a boat headed out to catch scabbard fish. Before coming to Japan I'd never heard of them. They're thin, silver fish that have a whip-like tail and don't put up much of a fight. If I caught any there will be pictures somewhere in this post...

We got on the water by 6:00 and had our lines wet by 7:00. Wet, and tangled. There were 30 people on the boat and there was no more than a meter between each person. This resulted in a lot of lines getting tangled - sometimes three or four different lines. This happened so frequently that there were people employed whose only job was to untangle tangled lines. Our lines were getting tangled every one out of three times we reeled in - though strangely never with each other, even though we were standing next to each other.

Having our lines tangled so often was frustrating for both of us - for similar and different reasons. The similarity of our frustration was that we had both paid money to come fishing, not to get our lines tangled damn near every other cast. Kazu's own frustration came from the trip being less than he had expected for his foreign friend. He put a lot of pressure on himself to deliver a good time and the success or failure of the fishing part of our trip, unlike the excellent dinner and breakfast he prepared, were out of his control. I could tell this bothered him.

My own frustration came from not being able to vent about how shitty the fishing conditions were. They were out of his control and I don't fault him at all, but being able to complain about the fish not biting or giving your brother or father shit because they got their line tangled with yours (never, ever the other way around) has been part of fishing for me since I first learned how. I lack the language skills to vent without potentially offending Kazu so I had to bite my tongue.

We did catch some fish though.

Our first fish came about an hour into the trip at almost the same time. As I was told, they didn't put up much of a fight. They're so small and weak and the line is so strong that it was hard to tell one was even there. I caught two more in the last 5 hours and Kazu caught one. He told me that the scabbard fish season was ending soon so there weren't a lot left. The ones that were still hanging around were the smaller ones we were catching. I didn't mind too much as it was my first time fishing in Japan and I was enjoying the experience, despite the poor conditions.

When we got back to Kazu's place I posed with my fish before he showed me how to clean them.

They were pretty easy to clean. Scale, gut, fillet. The ribs end about halfway down, at which point the tail turns into the whip I was describing. This whip part is the easiest place from which to cut sashimi.

I'd never had sashimi that fresh before. It was delicious. Kazu told me it's his favourite kind of sashimi. He said it was partly because the fish is so fresh, partly because it's not stocked in super markets so it's rare, but mostly because he catches them himself. I understood entirely how something that you catch and prepare yourself tastes infinitely better than something caught and prepared by someone else.


  1. 1. I did not know you fish. If/when you return to Ontario we should go fishing sometime. I have never been but it's on my life's to-do list.

    2. Those are funny looking fish. But congrats on catching two.

    3. Your post is bordering on an economic observation. Over the summer I read The Upside of Irrationality, a book by behavioural economist Dan Ariely, where he has a chapter discussing how people value stuff more when they make it. Here it is in a nutshell: http://hbr.org/web/2009/hbr-list/ikea-effect-when-labor-leads-to-love

  2. 1. I fished every summer when I went home. I did a little fishing in Victoria, but mostly for crab. And only during the summer you were in Vancouver.

    2. Thanks! But I actually caught three. They were delicious.

    3. Interesting article. The irrationality linked with liking something more because you made it yourself is interesting. For me the satisfaction often comes from doing something myself that is typically done by someone else. Like changing the oil in my car or changing my brakes or tuning my bike. I'm not sure that applies to what the article was studying though because I'd never change my own oil if I didn't do it as well as a professional.

  3. Oh: I'd love to go fishing with you! I'll be back in Ontario during the summer of 2011 (probably in August for two weeks) and then again sometime early in 2012. How long are you staying in Ottawa for? I'd love to go fishing near Ottawa because I've never been fishing in the area. Start researching. :)

  4. Dan Ariely's work basically looks at how we enjoy stuff more because we do it. You may be enjoying changing your own oil because you're doing it, or it may be that you enjoy it because it saves you money because it's cheaper for you to do it than a professional. It's not clear where your enjoyment is coming from.

    I intend to be in Ottawa at least until August 2012, as that's when her program ends. That'll give us a chance to figure out whether we like Ottawa and whether I like the civil service. So maybe we can go fishing in August. I'm guessing the "early 2012" fishing won't work out too well unless there's ice fishing around here.

  5. Does he look at how some people enjoy doing stuff themselves but others don't? Most of my friends can't be bothered to change their oil so they get someone else to do it - it's not enjoyable for them. Or is he only examining things which people admit they get joy from doing?

    I didn't realize Laura's program was a two-year Masters. Fishing in August might work. As it stands my trip is going to be pretty whirlwind - you may have to come down to southern Ontario to catch your first fish. There's definitely ice fishing in the Ottawa area so that would be an option too.

  6. - I can't find the book so I can't check, but my recollection is that he doesn't delve that deep into the issue. He did some experiments using origami, so he looked at how I valued my own orgami figurine vs. how you value mine and how you value an expert's. So he's getting more at how you value the fruits of your labour more than the happiness you derive from process.

    - We'll go fishing eventually. If not this summer then down the road sometime…